Beauty Secrets

By Joanne Pateman

    Finding the perfect gift for someone can be difficult. It requires knowledge of the recipient, creativity, budget considerations, and expectations of how the gift will be received. This year I got a gift chosen with love.

    My daughter, Sophie, sewed a beautiful cotton cosmetics bag for me in a blue-and-white flowered print fabric; she knows I love anything blue and white. The inside is lined with bright yellow material with white polka dots, and it has a nice pleat on each side and a zipper. Filled with an assortment of beauty products, it is fit to qualify as a “gift with purchase” in any fine department store’s cosmetics department. You know the kind, a free seven-piece combination of lipstick and eye shadow in shades you would never wear.

    But in Sophie’s gift kit are things I can actually use. Included are the following beauty products: a light brown eyebrow pencil, a lip liner, Luscious Liquid Lipstick, a soft pink blush, and a jar of 5-percent glycolic acid cream to smooth out skin and minimize age spots. Quite the haul; even more impressive given the state of her finances. My daughter and her husband are both academics and don’t have a lot of money.

    Sophie said, “Mom, you do a good job, but you could use softer, more subtle colors.” She praised the glycolic acid cream and told me how she used it regularly and loved it. She was sharing her beauty secrets, and I was flattered. Thinking that she’s getting old at 35, she gives me instructions on how to use the glycolic cream and tells me that I can move up to the 10 percent if necessary.

    I used to be beautiful for a living, and my daughter had seen photos from my modeling days. Three months pregnant with Sophie, I flew to St. Thomas in the Virgin Islands for an Almay beauty shoot with the photographer Albert Watson. It was the last modeling job I did, capping a 15-year career of doing print ads and TV commercials for Clairol, Breck, and Revlon.

    A natural beauty, Sophie wears makeup but looks as if she isn’t wearing any. She has a very light touch. She’s beautiful in an Ingrid Bergman, old-fashioned movie star way.

    I thanked her for her gift and first thought that she wanted to change me and modernize my makeup application, but loved the fact that she made and assembled it herself and spent a lot of time and money. On me.

    But then the next day I looked at the bag and took out all the products. I felt them in my hand and touched my face with the soft sable brush. I felt the heft of the pencil and squirted a little blush and massaged it into my cheeks, immediately attaining a healthy glow. On went the lip gloss, and I attempted a few strokes with the eyebrow pencil.

    Examining the contents more closely, I realized that Sophie wanted me to look good. I found her in the kitchen, gave her a hug, and thanked her again and told her how much I loved my gift and why. And of course cried while doing so.

    Sophie said, “Mom, I care, you’re still beautiful.” I didn’t take the gift as a sign of criticism, but as a gift of love for an aging mother from a daughter who thought she should still be beautiful.

    I remember when Sophie was 3 years old and I was about the same age as she is now; she was standing on the toilet seat and we were eye to eye as I looked into the mirror and applied makeup. She was a few inches away from my face when she said, “Mommy, you’re getting wrinkles. You’re getting old. You’re going to die.”

    She had me in the grave in a few seconds. I assured her that, yes, I would die someday, but it wouldn’t be for a very long time.

    I’ve been using the glycolic cream and notice a difference in the texture of my skin; it’s much smoother, not sure about fewer wrinkles. The brow equipment I’m experimenting with, and the lipstick is indeed much softer and subtler than my usual bright pink.

    I look good. For my age.

    Joanne Pateman is a regular contributor of “Guestwords” who lives in Southampton.